|Chinchilla. Photo: Justin Qian|
Pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, prairie dogs, and even some types of tortoises all need hay in their diet. It is important to their health in more than one way.
The small mammals on the list need to eat hay for a variety of reasons. First of all, the hay helps keep their teeth worn down. Rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and prairie dogs' teeth continuously grow throughout their life. By chewing on hay all day long, their teeth are worn down and are less likely to cause these pets any trouble. These small mammals should always have timothy hay available to them to munch on.
Second, the hay helps keep a small mammal's gut healthy. Rabbits and other small mammals have a very sensitive GI tract that always needs to be kept in motion. This is one reason why they poop a lot - but it's normal! If a small mammal's gut stops moving, life-threatening GI stasis poses a threat. Another important reason to always provide your small mammal with plenty of hay to eat throughout the day.
Even Sulcatta tortoises and other desert tortoises need a diet that is composed mostly of hay and grass. About 85% of their diet should consist of these foods. In the wild, these tortoises spend hours grazing and foraging for food in the form of grass. Their diet is very high fiber. When they are not fed the proper ratio of hay and grass, they are at risk for a number of health problems including diarrhea and even kidney disease. For more information about desert tortoise diets, please visit anapsid.org. The information there is very good and trustworthy.
|Tortoises enjoying their lunch. Photo: Keith Riley-Whittingham|
So as you can see, hay is not just for horses and cows. There are so many other pets that need hay in order to stay healthy. And you would be surprised the number of people I have met who have owned these animals and had no idea that they needed to feed them hay! If you are thinking of acquiring a rabbit, guinea pig, prairie dog, chinchilla, tortoise, or any other exotic pet - please do extensive research first!